Monday, October 7, 2019

Review of "Nunsense"

The nuns at the Sisters of Hoboken are back in the Playhouse on Park staging of Nunsense.  This ever popular musical – the original Off-Broadway show ran for 3,672 performances, the second-longest running Off-Broadway show in history, after The Fantasticks - is a rollicking and high-spirited production.

The five sisters in the show need to raise money to bury their brethren.  It seems Sister Julia, Child of God, accidentally poisoned 52 of the flock and there is no money in the kitty to pay for the last four burials. They decide to hold a variety show to bring in the required funds.  They are led by the Mother Superior, Sister Mary Regina (Amanda Forker).  Her right-hand woman, Sister Mary Hubert (Brandi Porter), the no-nonsense Mistress of the Novices; Sister Mary Amnesia (Hillary Ekwall), a nun who can’t remember much after a crucifix fell on her head; Sister Robert Anne (Lily Dickinson), a smart-alecky nun from the streets of Brooklyn; and Sister Mary Leo (Rachel Oremland), the youngest of the group who dreams of becoming the first ballerina nun.

They sing, they dance, tell jokes, and do everything in their power, and that of the Lord’s, to provide a lively, entertaining show.  And the quintet succeeds.  The five women work exceptionally well together, playing off each other’s strengths with skill and wit.  Each actress also makes the most of their individual moments under the spotlight of the small Playhouse space.

Dan Goggin, who wrote the book, music and lyrics of the show, layers the musical with a bounty of jokes and comical moments.  He has crafted a deceptively simple show that is, nonetheless, charming and clever.  The songs, which include “Nunsense is Habit-Forming,” “Playing Second Fiddle,” “Clean Out the Freezer,” and “I Just Want to be a Star,” are good-humored and tuneful.

The performers are a pure delight, perfectly cast for their roles, a well-heeled acting unit.  Each actress delivers a unique quality to their portrayal.  Amanda Forker brings an oversized personality to the role of the Mother Superior, the ring master of the group.  Her Act II meltdown of a nun who accidentally gets high is a comic gem.  Brandi Porter is resolute and demanding as the frustrated second-in-command.  She possesses a powerful singing voice and shows off some mean dance steps.  Lily Dickinson, the tough nun with a heart of gold from Canarsie, Brooklyn is hilarious as she continually attempts to muscle her way into the limelight.  Hillary Ekwall is appropriately befuddled as Sister Amnesia and is also one talented puppet master.  Rachel Oremland’s Sister Robert Anne adds a softer, more innocent edge to her soulmates.

Director/Choreographer Darlene Zoller guides the show with a lighthearted, but assured staging, with never a dull moment.  She has the women performing as a first-rate ensemble.  The dance numbers, deftly inserted into the flow of the show, are sprightly and inventive.

Nunsense, a fun-filled, rib-tickling musical, playing at Playhouse on Park through October 13th.

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